Holiday Wine Challenge Part 3: Ham & Zin!

I realize now that fixing a two traditional holiday Thanksgiving or Christmas meals –first a ham dinner then a turkey dinner– and tasting a bunch of wines with the food really was quite a challenge. If I was a stay at home wine blogger (and not teaching 75% time, working on a PhD, and being a mom!), I am sure I could have accomplished it before Thanksgiving! As it is, I made due with a steady stream of tweets and facebook posts to share what I was tasting and learning. And I know thanks to search engines, people will be finding these posts for years to come!

So wthis zin is great with ham or turkey for holiday meals like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easterhat did I learn about ham and wine?

The big surprise was how well the ham dinner went with the 2007 Sonoma County St Francis Old Vines Zinfandel (under $20). I knew I would like this wine with turkey but on a whim I decided to open it. As I tasted through the line-up, I didn’t expect much of the zin. However, the chemical reaction between the ham and the zin was wonderfully tasty!

So much so that if I was to recommend one wine to bring, especially f you didn’t know what was going to be served, I’d go with a zinfandel because it works with ham, turkey, appetizers including blue cheese and crackers, as well as red meats like prime rib.

Zinfandel is a wonderful food wine and accessible to many people even if they are not regular wine drinkers. Read my discussion of the St Francis Zin with turkey here.

My second favorite for the ham from this line-up is the 2010 M. Chapoutier Bellaruche Cotes-du-Rhone. Personally, I really enjoy dry roses with ham (here’s a discussion of a dry rose from Bordeaux with ham).  There is something about the combo of the spice and sweetness and salitiness that makes this work so well. I also tried this the next morning with ham and eggs and a cranberry pecan scone and I would definitely recommend this wine for brunch or one of those breakfast for dinner kind of nights.

I also tried the 2010 Oak Mountain Winery Muscat from Temecula Valley CA $18 (winery price) because I had an open bottle. I liked this well enough with the ham. Here’s more about it in my post about the International Food Bloggers Conference dinner which is where I got it. I should have included a Riesling or Gewürztraminer in the tasting as these are typically great wines with ham. But there was already a lot of wine open!

The other two wines I tried were also good wines but not that exciting with ham:

2009 Louis Jadot  Beaujolais-Villages considered one of the best wines under $25!

While this wine wasn’t my favorite with the ham, it’s a great choice for appetizers. I love it with pate, cheese and crackers.

2009 Craggy Ridge Pinot Noir ($35-45) As I wrote when I reviewed it with turkey, this is a lovely, delightful complex pinot noir, full of earth and moss and violets and chocolate and tarragon, truly a wonderful Pinot Noir from New Zealand, lush, sensual. I wouldn’t bring this wine to a big holiday meal with tons of people– save it for when you can focus on it and savor it! I bet it would be better with a pork loin or chop than with salty ham.

What wine do you like to drink with ham?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Holiday Wine Challenge Part 2: Turkey & Red Wine? Yes! Try These!

White Meat = White Wine

Pink Meat = Pink Wine

Red Meat = Red Wine

This is what many, if not most of us in the US grew up thinking  about when it came to matching wine with food (if we thought of wine at all!) This leads us to white wines with turkey, pink with ham, and red wines with prime rib for our holiday meals.

This short hand works well enough most of the time. But rules were made to be broken!

The trend over the past few years has been to pair turkey with pinot noir or beaujolais. (Rumor has it you ou can thank Oprah for this one!)

A lot of people weigh in with their opinions about what goes good with a holiday meal WITHOUT ACTUALLY TASTING THE WINE WITH THE FOOD! (Sorry the photo is NOT as good as the food–I ran out of patience too soon to get a good shot!!)

So I set out to try as many wines as I could with both a turkey dinner and a ham dinner. (I’m also going to have my husband cook a goose and a duck and maybe even a prime rib to try some wines to see what works best!)  You can read about the turkey dinner menu here and the white wines I tried with it. This was quite an undertaking! I tried to finish in time for those last minute Thanksgiving wine shoppers and of course there’s many a holiday meal to come!

2009 Louis Jadot  Beaujolais-Villages WORKS OK with turkey

According to a BIG ad in the LA Times, this is the wine you should bring to your holiday event–and it’s been named one of the best wines for under $25. Well, it might be all that and more, but I’m not so convinced that it goes with turkey. At least not with my palate. But with the pate from Trader Joe’s  that I snacked on while making dinner, I swear it’s my favorite pairing of the night! This is positively devilish in that it  was all I could do to keep from piling it on and washing it down with this wine.

2009 Craggy Ridge Pinot Noir ($35-45) WORKS OK with Turkey

Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely, delightful complex pinot noir, full of earth and moss and violets and chocolate and tarragon. This is truly a wonderful wine that makes me curious to taste and contemplate but here’s the truth: it’s fine with the turkey. But this lush, sensual wine has more magic on its own. Don’t waste this wine on a Thanksgiving dinner. Save it for when you can focus on it and savor it! This tastes like a $40 pinot noir. (And not that anyone asked, but I love the wine and I hate the website. It’s hard to navigate and the font is so small it’s hard to read.) I almost wish I hadn’t opened it and saved it for tasting on another occasion.

Looking for an easy to find and under $10 pinot noir?  I’ve had the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir with roasted chicken and I bet it would do the trick with turkey too–but it wasn’t part of this tasting. You can find it in many grocery store on sale for $5!

2007 St Francis Old Vine Zinfandel Sonoma County $20 DEFINITELY WORKS with turkey! THE WINNER!!

This is classic old vines zin. Full of lusty dusty brambly blackberry and wild rose with a hint of anise, it reminds me of traveling on a country road to Grandmother’s house. The winery is named after St Francis of Assisi and they’re doing their best to care for the land and what lives there, just like their name sake. To be eligible for this wine, the vines have to be over 50 years old. Many are 100 years old! So in addition to bringing a good wine to grandmother’s house, you get to bring some good stories. It’s not too heavy, oaky or tannic but it has a nice richness and complexity which holds up with the dark meat and complements the white meat. It went well with all the sides but especially the salad!

While the St Francis is a great wine for the money, what if you’re on more of a budget? Recently I tasted the Smoking Loon Zinfandel ($5 on sale) with turkey burgers and while it doesn’t have the body or the finish of the St Francis, for the money, this would be a great choice–or bring it as a second bottle. (ALWAYS drink the best stuff first!)

2007 Twisted Oak Petit Sirah WORKS OK with turkey

Since I had a bottle of this open (I’d had it the other night with a perfectly grilled steak!) and since someone raved about PS with turkey, I gave it a try. I like the wine a lot but it didn’t do much for the dinner overall. I did like it better with the dark meat than the white meat.

I’ve also heard recommendations for grenache with turkey and as I like grenache with chicken I bet it would be good with turkey and the trimmings. If I was going to pull a Twisted Oak red wine from my stash for a holiday meal, I would be more likely to choose a grenache.

So can you enjoy red wine with turkey? YES! What’s the red wine that I’m going to bring to the next holiday meal?


Specifically, Saldo 2008 California Zinfandel. I bought this last year and loved it with turkey so I bought another one and put it away. Now’s the time to bring it out!

Which red wines do YOU enjoy with turkey?